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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/1283012
Rated: E · Short Story · Career · #1283012
A man discontented with work and his under-employed wife seek financial freedom.
         Andy watched from the doorway of the barn where he’d been supervising the feeding of animals as the limousine returned from the airport with the couple to be our next guests at San Salvador Dude Ranch and Retreat Center. I didn’t get a chance to review their file as we went to join Maria, who stepped out of the hacienda to greet them.
         When she finished her welcome, Maria turned to Andy and introduced him to Henry and Patricia Vogel. “Andy is not only our Farm Director, he’s also a licensed Pentecostal minister. We also have Father Paul, a Catholic priest and counselor, and John O’Malley, who is our Administrator.
         “Now, if you’ll come inside, we’ll locate Mr. O’Malley and he’ll review with you why you’re here at the ranch.”
         Half an hour later, I entered my office, smoothing my damp hair, parted on the right of my round head. “Good morning, folks. I am John O’Malley. Please forgive me for not being available to welcome you to our home. I was out discussing work issues with the help.”
         I shook their hands and went to my desk to review their file. A software engineer for a large corporation, Henry Vogel had conflicts with his supervisor over how work was to be done. He also complained about the relative lack of production he perceived from fellow workers. His new wife, Patricia, had just received a degree in Child Development.
         I looked up at the couple. He had a medium height and build, light brown hair and dark blue eyes. Her blond hair framed a pretty face and warm blue eyes, above a slender body.
         They were holding hands. I grinned at them. “How recently was your honeymoon?”
         They smiled at each other. Henry answered, “Eight months ago.”
         I nodded. “Then you returned to work?”
         He nodded and gritted his teeth. “At first, things at work seemed better. Lance…um…Mr. Cartwright, my boss, wasn’t so hard to take. But recently, he’s been on me again about how I do my job.”
         Patricia comfortingly placed her free hand over Henry’s.
         “In any case,” I returned to my original thought, “let’s treat your stay here as a second honeymoon. Rest, eat, enjoy each other’s company. In a couple of days, Andy can take you riding or you can play tennis or whatever. When you’re rested, Henry, you can talk to me or Father Paul or Andy about your work issues.”

         When they had left, Phyllis announced the arrival of Bill Weaver. The University of Arizona in Tucson had asked if a student studying Therapeutic Recreation could do an internship at the ranch. With the Family’s approval, I agreed.
         “Mr. Weaver,” I said after we shook hands and sat, “please tell me about yourself.”
         The young man laid his hands on the arms of his chair and settled himself. “Mr. O’Malley, I was born in Germany, the son of an Army officer stationed there. My family moved from post to post with my father or lived on an American base while he went alone to high-risk assignments. I’ve never been in one place more than about three years.
         “I’ve done OK in school. I’ve studied well at U of A and I’m about ready to graduate and begin my career. I simply need to successfully complete this internship.”
         He stopped and waited for a response. I studied him. His size well matched his height – more than six feet – though he didn’t look imposing. His short, blond hair harmonized with his face which was unadorned by the rings and studs typical of people his age. His clothes appeared clean and professional.
         “I understand,” I said. “Tell me what you know of our establishment here.”
         “What I have been told is that you take in corporate employees who are causing trouble for their employers. You give them rest and help them deal with the causes of their problems. You have certain activities for them to do but no structured program. I would be pleased to develop a program that will enhance your work here.” He sat back, pleased or confident with himself.
         “OK so far,” I replied. “What have you been told about me?”
         “I have heard you came from out East somewhere with your brothers to set up this place. You have done fairly well and have a growing reputation among corporate executives. I wish to help.”
         “Very well, I will assign you to work with Father Paul, who deals directly with our guests. You may meet with him after supper. For now, I would have you learn what our guests experience when arriving. Go to the room assigned to you and rest…sleep if you can. We usually don’t get people up for supper but we’ll make an exception in your case.”
         With that, I stood and shook the young man’s hand again. Then he turned and left.

         The next morning, Henry went to the barn where Andy hefted a shovel, mucking out a stall. The middle-aged cowboy pointed to the other’s clean shorts and shirt and commented, “If ya’ll want ta stay clean in here, you’ll need ta put on clothes such as I’m wearin’.” He waved at his overalls and boots, which were splattered with filth and straw.
         “Where can I get some?” the young man asked.
         Andy indicated a row of pegs on the wall near the barn door. On them were various outfits, including overalls. Henry pulled on a set and returned to talk.
         “So, what do you do here at the ranch?”
         The Farm Director answered in a soft Texan twang, “I’m th’ resident cowboy ‘round these parts. I ride th’ range an’ supervise th’ care o’ th’ animals. I even muck out stalls on occasion.” He pushed his Stetson back on his round head and rested on the manure shovel he’d been wielding.
         Henry gazed at him. “You ever argue with Mr. O’Malley over how things should be done?”
         “Oh, occasionally.” Andy took off the hat and wiped his brow. His hair was parted down the middle of his head. “He’s big on ’fficiency an’ keepin’ things organized. I’m more laid back – see somethin’ needs doin’ an’ do it or delegate it. Aft’ some…er…discussions, we’ve agreed that he’ll coordinate the ministry overall but I run th’ ranch as I see fit. Ya can’t always be efficient with animals.”
         “What are your arguments like? Ever have real doozies?”
         “Nah. We gotta live together. An’ we’ve learned how ta argue constructively. Not attack each other but deal with the problem.”
         “Is Mr. O’Malley ever rough on you? A really hard boss?”
         “Oh, no. Like I said, we live together – we gotta get along. We’ve had ta learn how ta relate positively. Besides, Samantha covers us good in prayer an’ Father Paul watches over us all.”
         Henry blinked. “Samantha? I don’t remember meeting her.”
         Andy stood erect and shook his head, hefting the shovel. “An’ I’m sorry I mentioned her. She’s a special little girl ‘mong us with a special situation an’ talents of her own. We tend ta be very protective of her.”
         “Special problems and talents? Is she an idiot-savant?”
         The cowboy stared at him. “A who?”
         “An idiot-savant. Someone who is mentally retarded in general but extremely talented in some special area. Like the moron who can play any tune he’s heard only once. Or the autistic person who can’t relate to the world but is a real math whiz.”
         “Oh, OK. No, Samantha’s not like that. She went through a lotta severe abuse years ago. Now, she’s a mighty prayer warrior fer th’ community an’ our work here. We couldn’ make it without her.”
         “Oh, I’m sorry,” the younger man turned away, embarrassed.
         “Hey,” Andy spoke soothingly. “Iffen it ha’n’t happened, we cou’n’t help people as well as we do now.”
         Henry nodded his understanding. “But anyway, you say you’ve learned how to get along with your boss.”
         “I had to. We talked an’ came to an agreement. I don’ criticize how he handles people in his job an’ he doesn’t tell me how to do mine. He may tell me something needs to be done for the sake of our guests but I decide how to do it.”
         Henry started unbuttoning his overalls. “Well, thanks. I’ll think about that.”
         Andy held out a hand. “Whoa. Where ya goin’? Aren’t ya gonna help with th’ chores?” He held out the shovel toward the guest.
         “What, me!? Muck out stalls?” The software engineer backed away. “I don’t think so!”
         The cowboy chuckled as Henry shucked off the overalls and hung them up.
         
         Bill Weaver spent a few days learning how things were done for our guests. He talked with Father Paul and Andy and me. And he had Maria share about her work with the guests.
         Finally, he began to put on paper what we already did and to develop an over-all program of activities. He included a list of suggestions for improvements on our present work. These he shared with Paul and Maria, who listened with great interest.
         That afternoon, Patricia, clad in white shorts and a light blue top, sought out Father Paul, who sat writing in the chapel office. He looked up at her knock and set aside his work.
         “Hello, Father.”
         “Mrs. Vogel. Please, come in. Sit.”
         She sat and crossed her pretty legs. “Please call me Patty. I’d like to talk to you, if I may, about Henry and his work.”
         “Certainly, Patty. How may I help?”
         She leaned forward to look earnestly at the priest. “Father, I’m worried about Henry losing his job. His boss said if things don’t improve after this little vacation, he’ll have to fire him.”
         Father Paul nodded his round head. “I can see how that would be hard on your husband. What worries you?”
         “I’m afraid we won’t have enough income if Henry gets fired.”
         “Doesn’t he make a lot of money as a software engineer?”
         “He does now, but he won’t if he gets fired.” She wrung her hands together.
         “Do the two of you have any savings or investments? Or do you spend all he makes?”
         Patricia sighed and sat back. “We pretty much spend it all and then some. We’ve been running up some bills with our credit cards and charge accounts.”
         The priest fought to suppress a wince. He had seen too many other families burdened with foolish debts. It took years to deal with those problems. He clasped his hands and rested his arms on the desk.
         “I can see why you’d be worried. Do you work outside the home? I know you have a degree.”
         The young woman’s eyes lit up. “Yes, I have. I could have started working at a daycare center after I graduated but we chose to get married instead. Since then, we’ve decided to live off Henry’s income alone.” She frowned slightly and looked away.
         Father Paul said, “You seem unhappy about that.”
         Patricia looked back at him, wide-eyed. “Oh, no! I’m happy that he wants to support me and is able to.” She paused. “It’s just that I want to have children and with our bills, we decided we can’t afford them yet.”
         The middle-aged man nodded, his hair flopping down from its part on the left side of his round head. “Hmm. I see. And Henry doesn’t want you to work outside the home.”
         “No. He says it’s the man’s place to provide for his family.”
         “And you agree with him?”
         She looked shocked. “Well, of course! He’s my husband. I have to submit to whatever he wants.”
         Father Paul sat back. “Now, wait a minute. I agree the Bible says you’re to submit to him and respect him. However, it doesn’t say you have to agree all the time. You’ve obviously talked about your finances and whether to have children. But how much of that was him telling you how it would be?”
         Patricia looked at her hands in her lap. “A lot of it.” She looked up, pleading with her eyes. “Father, I really want to work with children – especially our own children. How can I do that if he won’t let me work or have kids?”
         Father Paul smiled. “I like how you put that question. You’re not complaining how mean he is to you. You’re asking how you can get something – something you need and want.”
         The young woman blinked in surprise. “Say, you’re right! That’s something I was taught to encourage adolescents to do – look for how to solve their problems.
         She frowned again. “But what about disagreeing with my husband? I thought I was supposed to support him in everything.”
         The priest replied, “And he is supposed to provide for you everything you need and want. And you need children in your life. You also need to be able to speak up when you disagree on issues while you submit to his authority. Do you see the difference?”
         Patricia nodded her head thoughtfully. “Ye-es. I see the difference.” She looked up at him. “Do you think you and I can talk with him together and make him see it?”
         He grinned. “We can certainly try. You know about using ‘I feel…’ statements?”
         “Oh, yes. I use them all the time.”
         “OK. I’ll set an appointment to meet with the both of you.”
         Patricia stood up. “Thank you, Father. I feel much better already.”
         “Good,” he replied. He held up his hand for her to wait. “Meanwhile, I want you to look at what Proverbs 31 says about a good wife.”
         “OK. Thanks.”
         Father Paul smiled as he watched her sail out the door then he returned to the sermon he was writing. “It was for freedom that Christ has set you free.” That could be applied in so many ways. He didn’t notice Maria watching from the office door which was always kept open, especially during talks with women.

         That evening, it pleased me to see Patricia studying a Bible with Maria at her side. Our guest seemed excited about the discussion. I made my way over to where Henry was leafing brusquely through a sports magazine. I took in his frown of discontent and sat down across from him. After a moment, he noticed and looked up. His face relaxed into cool indifference.
         “Thinking about work?” I asked.
         He looked down at the magazine. “That and other things.” He glanced over to where the women were seated.
         “Are you wishing your wife was with you?”
         He blushed. “To tell you the truth, yes. This isn’t much of a honeymoon if she’s not spending time with me.”
         I nodded. “I suggested another ‘honeymoon’ with the idea of getting you to rest – to talk with each other about marriage issues. I have learned you have more to deal with than just problems at work.”
         He looked startled. “What do you mean?”
         “I mean your wife is unhappy about not being around children – your own or other people’s.”
         “We can’t afford to have children and I don’t want her to work if she doesn’t have to.”
         “Even if she wants to?”
         “Listen. We agreed she doesn’t need to work, so she doesn’t.” He looked at the women again. “What are they studying over there, anyway?”
         “Father Paul suggested she read a passage in Proverbs that gives the characteristics of a good wife.”
         He relaxed at that. “Well, like I said, we agreed.”
         “The way I heard it, she is submitting to your authority but doesn’t really agree. She has a need to be with children.” I held up my hand to forestall more argument. “At any rate, both of you have an appointment with Father Paul in the morning. You’ll be discussing this issue with his guidance. Until then I don’t want you badgering her about it. OK?”
         He looked at me a bit angrily. “I don’t think it’s right that I can’t talk to my own wife if we’re having a problem between us.”
         “I understand that. But, for Patricia’s peace of mind, I would ask you not to badger her about it.”
         He stood up and looked down at me with his fists clenched. “I don’t know who you think you are, buster, but if I want to discuss something with my wife, I will. Where do you get off telling me I can’t?”
         I sat and looked at him calmly. I could tell Andy wanted to put the tough guy in his place. Fortunately Father Paul restrained him and invoked Henry’s need for an example of better behavior. That helped me pacify my own ruffled feelings.
         As I waited, the man standing over me looked around at the people staring at the disturbance. He flushed in embarrassment and wilted into his chair.
         I looked around at the others and patted the air reassuringly. Then I returned my attention to Henry.
         “You realize, I hope, that it’s just this kind of behavior that causes you problems at work.”
         He nodded and looked away.
         “I can’t tell you,” I said, “what not to discuss with your wife. You’re right. That’s not my place. Let me repeat, I’m asking you – for your wife’s sake – to refrain from discussing this with her until tomorrow with Father Paul. Will you do that, please?”
         He nodded his head, not meeting my eyes.
         “Good. As I said, Patricia’s studying how to be a good wife to you. Trust in God to make that happen for you both.” I stood and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder as I left. I decided it was time to talk to our prayer warrior, Samantha.
         
The next morning, Father Paul was again in the chapel office when the Vogels arrived for their appointment. He set aside his sermon again and waved the couple into seats.
         “So,” he began jovially, “we are here this morning because Patty wants to go over the issues of her working and of having children. But, before we go into that,” he turned to the woman, “I hear you studied Proverbs 31 with Maria last night. How did it go?”
         “Oh, Father Paul, it was wonderful! I was amazed at how much a good woman rules over her household and family. I particularly liked what it said about helping her husband with all the work she does rather than hindering him.”
         “Good! Good! That’s what I believe this meeting is about.” The priest turned back to Henry. “Now, the ground rules for this discussion.
         “First, each of you will have ten minutes to say what you want without the other interrupting. That means if you hear something you don’t agree with, you hold your tongue until the other is finished. The point is that the person speaking needs to feel he or she is being heard concerning whatever he or she says. I mean, it’s important to that person; it’s important the other listens and hears what is being said. Understood?”
         Both listeners nodded.
         “Second, what the speaker shares are facts – not opinions nor judgments – and feeling statements. For example, Henry, you stood over John last night, arguing for your right to talk to Patty. That’s a fact. When you did that, I felt scared and a little bit angry. That’s a feeling statement. It focuses on my reaction – not on your action. Understand?”
         They nodded again.
         “Third, when the speaker is finished, the listener does not respond to the statements, he or she reflects back what the speaker said. In your own words, repeat what you heard. If what you heard isn’t what was meant, then the speaker can correct the misunderstanding. The important thing, again, is that the speaker feels heard and understood.”
         “Finally, you trade sides, the listener becomes the speaker and says ‘I feel or felt…’ statements while the first speaker listens then reflects back what was heard. OK? Any questions?”
         Henry looked askance at the priest. “And this is supposed to help our marriage how?”
         “This gives you an opportunity to hear what your wife thinks and feels about important issues in your life. It gives you an opportunity to love her by hearing what she needs and wants so you can provide for her. It gives her an opportunity to tell you how she feels about some decisions you’ve made. She still submits to you. However, she needs to be heard.”
         The young man nodded his understanding and looked at his wife. Patricia reached out and took Henry’s hands in her own and began. She spoke of her need to be around children. She spoke of her need to work with children, especially since she had her degree. She referred to Proverbs 31’s example of a good wife adding to the family wealth through her own efforts so that her husband had time to discuss issues with civic leaders.
         “Darling, I don’t want to take over your place as provider for our family. I know that’s important to you. Neither do I want to sit at home and do nothing when I’m able to add to our income and do something I really want to do. Do you understand?”
         Henry looked at her for a moment then at Father Paul. He clearly fought the urge to have his say. Instead, he removed his hands from his wife’s and enclosed hers.
         “Honey, I do love you. What I hear you saying is it’s a good thing for a woman to work to provide for her family and that is what you want to do – particularly working with children. I also hear you saying you want children of our own to care for.”
         Patricia smiled with tears in her eyes. “Yes, dear. That’s what I’m saying.”
         “Wonderful!” Father Paul beamed at the couple. “Henry, you did very well in listening to your wife. I’m proud of you.”
         The young man grinned. “Thanks, Father. Umm…I guess it’s my turn.”
         Henry spoke for several minutes about his unhappiness at work. He shared about being brought up to take care of his family; it was thought unmanly if one’s wife worked outside the home. He described his frustration with their indebtedness. He expressed the wish that they hadn’t given in to buying things they really couldn’t afford. He said he really wanted children, too, and he wanted the two of them to figure out what they could do to afford them.
         Patricia faithfully reflected back to her husband what he had shared. Then she said she was glad they had been able to fully share with each other.
         Father Paul beamed at the happy couple. “Well, OK. You’ve accomplished a lot today just by listening to each other. I’ll let you both go to process this more.”
         The priest stood and made the sign of the Cross over them. With that, the couple stood and went out the door.
         As Paul followed then out the door to go change, he heard Maria storming in from the living room. He waved the Vogels on to their destination and followed Maria back into the study.
         The priest seated himself and watched the young Latina.
         “I do a good job here with our guests – have been for years! Who does that arrogant, self-centered gringo think he is?!” She waved her hands about and gushed indignant Spanish.
         She turned to the priest, her hands on her hips. “Do you know he had the gall to instruct ME how to do MY job?!” Maria continued to rant in two languages.
         Finally, she calmed enough to drop into one of the chairs, breathing heavily. Father Paul just sat and looked at her until she settled enough to talk.
         “That…MAN,” she exclaimed, “is driving me nuts! He seems to think that since he made that plan for improving our service to our clients, he can tell people how to do it!”
         Father Paul nodded to show his attentiveness.
         “Now he says he wants me to do inventory of our sports equipment so we can figure out what else is needed.”
         “And?”
         “First, that would take all afternoon, leaving me out of the ride to the saguaro cactus forest. Second, I don’t see where it’s his place to give me instructions. I mean, if he wants it done, he can do it! My job is to be with the guests!”
         “You’re right, Maria. One good thing about your work is you are always there to serve the guests.”
         She looked at him sharply. “But?!”
         “No buts. You are a good worker with our guests. I really appreciate all you do for them.”
         The priest stood and held out a hand to raise the young woman to her feet. He then gave her a fatherly hug and kiss on the forehead. “Go and do more.”
         She hugged him fiercely and left beaming.

         Later, Bill came into my office. “Mr. O’Malley, could we talk a little bit? I’d like to make my pitch to become the ranch’s Activities Director.”
         I set aside the papers I was going over and sat back to listen. He explained about his years of study at the U of A and his successful completion of other fieldwork assignments. He presented his plans for reorganizing the guest activities of the ranch. He also explained how Maria’s lack of training made her ineffective as Guest Assistant.
         I heard him out and said I would take his points into consideration. I reminded him he had not yet submitted the final draft of his plan to me or to his instructor at the college.
         He thanked me for my time and let me return to my papers.

         That afternoon, the Vogels went riding with Andy, Maria, and Bill Weaver. They returned hot and sweaty but smiling as they chattered about the cactus forest and the prairie dog town. They went off to a shower and nap.
         After supper, Bill approached the couple as they sat talking. “Howdy, folks.”
         They looked up, startled then with expectancy.
         “I’m Bill Weaver, the Recreation student here at the ranch. May I talk with you for a few minutes?”
         Henry responded, “We’re in the middle of a discussion. Can it wait?”
         “It’ll just take a minute or two,” the student urged. He held up some papers in his hand. “I have here a program of activities for you to follow during your stay here.”
         “We’re already following the advice given to us for our time here.”
         Bill sneered. “Given to you by Maria? I’ve been trained for this sort of thing.”
         “Well, no…” Henry was interrupted by Father Paul standing at Bill’s shoulder.
         “Mr. Weaver, could I see you in my office, please? Folks, please forgive the interruption to your talk.” The priest stalked off after the student.
         “Mr. Weaver, what did you think you were doing, talking to the Vogels about an activities program for them?”
         The young man clenched his fists around his papers. “I was only doing what I’d been trained for this position. I have reorganized on paper the activities program for the whole ranch. Now, I’m seeking to offer a program specific for the Vogels.”
         “Were you assigned such a task?”
         Bill looked down at the floor. “Well, no. But their case gives me a good opportunity to show what I can do.”
         “And show up Maria as an untrained drudge?”
         The young man looked up sharply. “She is untrained! She wouldn’t know the first thing about devising a program for this place!”
         “Except for what you’ve shown her already.”
         “Exactly! I’m the one who has shown her what she has learned so far.”
         The priest held up his hand to forestall further comments. “Have you noticed how good she is at just being there for the guests, helping them with whatever they need? While this evening you are trying to push your program on a couple who don’t need nor want what you offer. Maybe you should let Maria teach you in this matter. In any case, that’s the mind-set we want in our Guest Aide or Activities Director, were we to hire you.” He flicked his hand in dismissal of the idea.
         The young man slumped in his chair in frustration. “I was so sure…”
         Father Paul nodded. “Have you completed what you have been assigned to do?”
         The student sighed. “Yes, they’re ready to go over tomorrow.”
         “Good,” the Head Counselor said. “We can do that and we’ll take into consideration your ideas for improving our work the guests. In the meantime, we’re here to serve God through helping them. Maybe you should observe how Maria does it.”

         The next morning, Henry came to my office to talk.
         “How are things going?” I asked.
         “With Patty, fine. We’ve decided she can take a job working with children. We also decided to use her income to pay off our credit card debts.”
         “‘We decided’ or you decided it’s OK.”
         The young man frowned at me. “OK, I decided her having a job would not be a bad thing. When we talked, I agreed she could go ahead and work.”
         I grinned to reward his honesty. “So, what’s up for today?”
         He pondered a moment. “Things are settled with Patty but there are still the problems at work. I have a boss who rides me about how I do my work and I get…er…upset about other workers standing around when there’s work to be done.”
         I nodded. “I can certainly relate with the last sentiment. I detest seeing people talking instead of working. On the other hand, I’ve learned it’s important for fellow workers to relate well with each other and that requires a certain amount of chit-chat.”
         “Well,” he replied, “if I was boss, I’d see there was less chit-chat and more work.”
         “Oh? And how would you do that?”
         He shrugged. “I don’t know. I just think a person shouldn’t be paid for time spent talking. He should be paid for the work he does.”
         “Now, there’s an interesting concept,” I said wryly. “And what’s wrong with the way your boss wants you to do your work?”
         Henry grimaced. “He won’t let me do my job the way I think is best. Instead of telling me what needs to be done and checking the results, he closely supervises how I do the job.”
         “And the problem with that is…?”
         “He wants everything done by the book. He doesn’t allow for more efficient ways of setting up programs or writing code.”
         I nodded for him to go on.
         “I try to explain to him there are better ways to accomplish what the customer wants but he won’t listen.”
         “Maybe you should offer your own version to the customer.”
         The software engineer blinked at me. “What do you mean?”
         “Well, if the work you do is better than that offered by your employer, maybe you should start your own company. As your own boss, you don’t have to worry about other people’s criticism or lack of production.”
         “Yeah, I just have to worry whether I can get work.”
         “Yes, there is that risk. We had to do a lot of marketing before we made a name for ourselves here at San Salvador Dude Ranch. Fortunately, we had support from people God sent to help us.”
         “Oh, really?” Henry sounded interested.
         “Yes. But that’s a story for another time,” I said. “I think what you have before you are really two issues.”
         Henry looked at me perplexed.
         “Yes. The first decision you need to make is whether you want to be working for someone else for the rest of your career. Then, if you decide you would prefer to work for yourself, you will need to maintain employment while you prepare for self-employment. That will require you to change your attitude on the job.
         “You have definite ideas about how your work should be done. To me, that means you’re primed to work for yourself. Start your own company. Things will be done your way. Convince the market you’re production is better, faster, cheaper…no,” I interrupted myself, “I mean, less expensive than that of other companies.”
         “Now, that’s an intriguing idea.” My guest sat back to contemplate it.
         “Why don’t you go somewhere you can think about it?”
         He stood up, still looking thoughtful. “Ye-es, I’ll do that. I’ll talk to you later.” With that, he departed.
         In the afternoon, Andy entered the hacienda for siesta and noticed the Vogels on the porch swing talking earnestly. After supper, Patricia caught Father Paul as he strolled about the house, chatting with people. She looked mildly distressed.
         “What troubles you, Patty?”
         “I was just asking Maria’s opinion about something Henry said and she put me off. She said she was just a dumb Latina and didn’t know anything.”
         Father Paul stopped in mid-stride and turned to the young woman. “Is that what she said, ‘dumb Latina’?”
         “Her exact words.”
         The priest frowned and sighed. “We’ve learned here at the ranch that when Maria is struggling with God about something, it’s best not to ask about it. She spouts off about being a ‘dumb Latina’ and rants in Spanish so fast nobody understands her.
         “Now, you couldn’t have known that and, even if you had, you might not have known anything was going on. It’s hard for us to tell sometimes.”
         “I see. Anyway, I’d like to talk to you then about what Henry said.”
         “Certainly,” Father Paul replied and led her to a quiet corner of the sitting room.
         “Father, Henry was talking about starting his own business.”
         The older man nodded.
         “I don’t know if I can go along with that.” The young woman wrung her hands unhappily.
         “And what are you unhappy about?”
         “First, it’s the idea of losing his income until the business became successful. But I also don’t want to go against my husband’s desires.”
         “I see.” The priest folded his hands together in his lap and pondered. He looked at the woman. “Tell me about losing his income.”
         “Well, we’re in debt now. Even with me getting a job, it will take some time to break even. Then having income to live on will be gone if he isn’t working steadily. I don’t want to quash his dreams but I’m afraid we’ll just get deeper into debt.”
         Father Paul looked pensive. “And how can you support your husband’s desires when you’re afraid they are wrong?”
         “Exactly. I’m feeling caught in a pinch.”
         “Do you trust God to take care of your financial needs?”
         Patricia inhaled and let it out slowly. “Yes, at least intellectually. I have to admit, though, I don’t feel secure.”
         Father Paul nodded. “It’s hard to believe God will care for us when all we see around us is at risk.” He pondered a bit. “Let me ask you something. Do you believe God loves you?”
         “Oh, certainly. I have believed that since I was thirteen.”
         “OK, good. Do you believe He is able to care for you - no matter how bad things look?”
         She hesitated. “It’s not a matter of ‘Is He able’. It’s more like ‘Will He this time’.”
         “I see,” the priest said. He looked intently at the young woman. “I know it’s your desire to work with and to bear children. Do you know that it’s God’s plan for you? What I mean is: Have you ever asked God what He wants to do with your life?”
         Patricia hung her head. “No. I have to admit I have not. I have always assumed that being good and following my desires – and those of my husband – was enough.”
         Father Paul nodded in sympathy. “That’s the way it is with most people. But let me tell you something from my own experience.
         “God does have a specific plan for you and your husband and for your family. Once you settle in your heart and mind that you will follow his will no matter where it leads you, you will be able to trust Him to bring His plan about. Then, no matter what does happen, no matter how bad things look, you can trust that He will bring it to a good end.
         “The story of Abraham and Isaac is a prime example. God told Abraham he would have a son. Abraham had to wait for many years for that son to be born. When Isaac was maybe twelve years old, God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac to Him. That looked like a breaking of God’s promise, but Abraham trusted that God would work it out. He had the vision and the promise of God to rely on. Only when Abraham demonstrated his utter trust by obedience did God stop the sacrifice and restore Isaac to his father.
         “Now, I would suggest that you ask God for His plan for your life and that of your family. Once you’re clear about what He wants to do, you can believe He will accomplish it – as the saying goes – come Hell or high water. All He wants is for you to walk faith-fully with Him.”
         Father Paul knew from the way Patricia was weeping that his words had touched something deep within her. He laid a comforting hand on her heaving shoulder. She turned and laid her head against his own broad shoulder. He then placed his hand on her head.
         After a while, her weeping ended and the young woman smiled through her tears. Blowing her nose, she drew in a shuddering breath and slowly let it out.
         “I haven’t felt so comforted since my father died. Thank you.”
         The priest grinned. “That’s why this place is sometimes called Salvation Ranch.”
         She hugged him briefly and rose to leave. She strode toward the doorway where Maria sat in a lounge chair, watching. The employee’s face held a mixture of displeasure and determination. Father Paul felt a qualm as Maria rose to follow Patricia out the door.

         Sunday came and, as usual, Andy led a few carloads of employees and their families to church at the San Pedro Valley Christian Assembly. He was an elder there and, that day, took a turn at the pulpit.
         After the worship and the usual church business, Brother Andy laid his notes and Bible on the lectern and rested his arm on top of them. He glanced around the congregation and his eye fell on Maria. He had been surprised at her request to attend with them that morning. He pushed that thought aside.

         Today, I want ta talk ta ya’ll ‘bout slavery in th’ job market. I am convinced there’re two perspectives on th’ Bible’s message ta slaves. First though, despite our belief that it’s wrong, slavery is allowed for because it was a fact of life. So, the apostles Paul and Peter wrote ta slaves an’ ta their masters ‘bout how ta live an’ interact with each other in God’s way.
         Now, the first perspective I wanna share is th’ one typical fer most preachers today. In th’ Western world, we don’ have slaves. Those who work fer others are called ‘employees’. So, preachers substitute ‘employees’ fer ‘slaves’ in Paul’s an’ Peter’s messages.
         What th’ apostles say is fer employees ta work fer their masters…er… bosses…as they would work fer th’ Lord Himself. Peter wrote ta encourage slaves ta endure punishment from harsh bosses because there’s reward in that. But th’ reward i'n’t there iffen th’ punishment is deserved. So, ya’ll who’re employees - an’ I know that’s most’ve ya. Yore expected in Christ ta work hard fer yer employers.
         Now, th’ secon’ perspective of slavery in th’ market is this: Ta hold a job workin’ fer some-on’ else is th’ same as slavery.
         Now, bear with me here. I c’n hear ya thinking, “I’m not a slave. Ain’t nobody says I hafta keep th’ job I got.” OK, ya have th’ right to change jobs, even careers.
         On th’ other hand, do ya have th’ economic freedom th’t would allow ya ta quit where ya work? Let me say this ‘nother way. If you were guaranteed, say, $64,000 a year in income, no matter what ya did, woul’ja keep yer present job? If ya say ya’d quit an’ th’ only reason ya stay is ya can’t afford ta quit, then yer an economic slave ta yer job.
         Now, iffen yore not a slave or employee o’ some company, what are ya? Ya could be’n artist or author or some such. Or maybe yer a politician. About th’ only other choice ya have left is ta be a slave-owner, an employer. If you’re not th’ slave in a business, ya must be th’ one what owns it.
         If yer business is successful, then yer th’ one who makes th’ big bucks… an’ pays th’ employees th’ little bucks. I mean, ya gotta make a profit, right? Right!
         So, whadda we have in th’ job market? We have business owners who invest their capital, who take th’ risk o’ failure an’ bankruptcy, an’ who make th’ big bucks when th’ business succeeds. Then we have th’ employees who work fer th’ business owners. They have th’ steady jobs – as long as business is good an’ there aren’t lay-offs or down-sizing. They have th’ hard manual labor or th’ work they’re assigned – not th’ work they necessarily want. They have th’ other people who are assigned ta work wi’ them – whether they like those people or not. An’ they have th’ big – I mean, little – bucks they earn.
         Most often, company employees don’ have near th’ income th’ company owner has. They go home – only at th’ end of their shift - ta their tiny apartments or small house in a blue-collar neighborhood wi’ their half-acre lot an’ small backyard. Maybe their wives’re home – if they aren’t slaving at a job so th’ household can pay all its bills.
         Th’ business owner has ta go home – any time he wants – ta his big house on a twenty-acre lot. It has a front yard bigger’n th’ whole property of his employee an’ a bigger backyard an’ a swimming pool an’…but I’m gettin’ away from myself.
         So, what am I sayin’? I’m sayin’ iffen ya want ta be economically free, iffen ya want ta have a good income an’ a big house, iffen ya want ta spend yer time playin’ golf or writin’ th’ great American novel or helpin’ some charity build a house fer poor people – instead o’ havin’ it built fer you – then ya gotta have your own business. Don’t work fer someone else as’n economic slave. Be yer own boss. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:20-21,
“Every one should remain in the state in which he was called. Were you a slave when called? Never mind. But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.”
         
         On the ride home after church and lunch in town, Andy asked Maria to sit in the front seat with him. He asked how she enjoyed the service. She said it was strange; she’d never been to a Protestant church before.
          “So, what made ya want ta come with us today?”
         She looked out the windshield. “Until recently, I have always believed what the Church… the Catholic church…has said about Protestants being less than true believers. Of course, your work at the ranch proves otherwise.
          “Last night, God convinced me that all of you…” At this, she gestured at the line of cars. “…are just as faithful as I am. I also realized that it’s OK that the man I want to marry doesn’t know it yet.”
          “Oh, ho!” The cowboy crowed and slapped the steering wheel in delight. “And who is this lucky fella?”
         The young woman’s dusky face turned darker. “I’m not ready to say.” She remained silent for the rest of the trip.
         
         Later that afternoon, Father Paul celebrated Mass for the Catholics among the community. In his homily, he talked about slavery from the perspective of biblical history.
         Slavery, in one form or another, has always been discussed in the Bible and I believe it is contrary to God’s gifts of freedom and prosperity. When Moses revealed the consequences of obedience and disobedience, he promised prosperity for those with the faith to obey God’s commands and precepts. He promised poverty for those who disobey – a sign of their unbelief.
         In the book of Judges, we read how the land of Canaan was divided among the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Each tribe divided its territory among its clans and the clans divided their portions among the various families. It was intended that each family would work its land, raise crops and livestock, and build up its wealth. In a broad sense, each farm was a family business and the only “employees” were family members.
         Of course, some farms were successful, producing plenty of wealth for their families. Some were failures and the families were reduced to owing debts. They were required to sell their land – even enter into the bondage of servanthood. One might say that their capital and their labor became the property of the successful landowners who produced even more wealth for themselves.
         Now, this was not wrong. But it is obvious that the Lord did not mean this to be the ideal. He desired every family to have its own property and to work its own fields – not those of others. Every fifty years, the Jubilee was intended to return all land to its original families and those in bondage were to be freed. In effect, the next generation of each family was given a chance at creating wealth for itself.
         Of course, the faithlessness of Israel as a nation led to spiritual bondage and repeated subjugation to various nations. And today, in our “capitalist” economy, we don’t follow the laws concerning Jubilee. I believe this is wrong.
         God has given instructions how He wants people everywhere to live. Economically, that means every family – husband and wife, if not the children – ideally works for its own business. At the very least, the family should own part of a business, either through stocks in one or more corporations or through partnership with other families.
         Working for someone else is less than the best God would have for you. It is very difficult to prosper financially while working for someone else. So, to use the words of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:21,
“Were you a slave when called? Never mind. But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.” And in Galatians 5:1, “It was for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
         
         On Monday, the Vogels met again with Father Paul. Patricia began by sharing about her talk with God.
          “Father, I am so excited. I believe I have received a vision from God. He has promised me that we will have children and that we will prosper through the business Henry will create. He challenged me to do whatever I can to help Henry make that possible.”
          “That’s wonderful! So, now you know God wants you to have children and good fortune.”
         Henry shared, “Father, between your homily and Andy’s sermon yesterday, I have become convinced that God wants me to create my own business. I believe He wants to help me make it a model of how a company should be run. One of its basic principles will be an idea John expressed to me.”
          “Really?” Father Paul asked.
          “Yes. He said a person shouldn’t be paid for time spent talking. He should be paid for the work he does.”
          “Umm, I believe you said that.”
          “Did I? Well, anyway, the idea is to set a wage for each task to be accomplished. The person assigned to do it will be paid for its completion - not for the time spent to complete it.”
          “That is an interesting concept.”
         The young man continued. “Well, anyway. Patty and I discussed this a lot. It’s obvious I can’t quit a paying job until our debts are paid off and we have the resources needed to begin in business. Patty will seek a job working with children and her income will go towards paying off the debts and building our reserves. Meanwhile, I will endure working at my present position. And I’ll do the initial planning for getting my business started. Once, we have the green light from God, I’ll start making my own bids for contracts.”
          “That sounds wonderful, you two. It looks to me like you have a wonderful life ahead of you.”
         With that, Father Paul stood and blessed them and sent them to pack for their return home.
         Next, the priest met with Bill Weaver and his internship instructor from the university. He returned the papers the student had turned in and talked with them about how Bill had helped the ranch.
          “You have made several contributions to our work here. First, you assessed our ability to provide activities for our guests, including taking inventory of all our leisure equipment. Then you planned how our over-all program can be improved in keeping with our goals. We will certainly consider your suggestions and implement those we deem helpful.”
         Bill’s shoulders slumped. “It’s obvious you have decided not to hire me as Activities Director.”
         The priest nodded. “That decision has been made. We feel Maria’s work as Guest Aide covers what we want for now and she has demonstrated the qualities we want.
          “I’m sorry but you showed you don’t quite have the servant’s attitude we want here.”
         Bill nodded. “You’re right. I’ll have to work on that. And I thank you for all I’ve learned here.”
         They all stood and shook hands. Then Bill went to pack up his things.
         
         At the car, I gripped Henry’s hand and wished him all God’s blessing on his future. He grinned.
          “Now that I have a sense of what God wants for our future, I’m looking forward to returning to work. I’ll put up with Lance until I’m ready to outbid him for the same work.”
         Patricia kissed my cheek. “Please, give that to Father Paul for me.”
         I blushed and nodded. Maria, who was seeing the couple off as well, gave me a cool look and grinned knowingly. I decided I needed to talk with her about her own behavior over the past few days.
         A year later, Patricia sent a newsy letter and a picture of her new baby. The letter said the couple’s debts were nearly paid off and they were able to lay aside money for Henry’s business even with the baby expenses.
© Copyright 2007 John-Paul (johnpaul156 at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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